Secure Services Referral and step down pathway: Managing access to internal and external secure beds

Sherilea Curzon, Senior nurse LSU, PICU and Carmarthen Adult Mental Health
Nicola Hopkins Lead Nurse for Commissioning Team
Kay Isaacs, Head of Adult Mental Health

Hywel Dda University Health Board


The relationship between the health boards Low secure unit and Psychiatric intensive care unit in respect of both internal and external referrals was fragmented. There was no established pathway into externally commissioned hospital beds.

A proposal was made to establish a multidisciplinary team meeting with an associated panel to manage all new referrals by scrutinising these referrals and exploring local options. We needed a pathway that would provide a single integrated approach with appropriate clinical governance and decision making arrangements and clear budgetary and commissioning governance for high-cost external placements.

Project Aims

The aim of the project was to review long term admissions in the low secure unit (over 18 months). For the MDT to take a lead role in the decision-making process in respect of these patients alongside:

A forum was needed with Senior staff to scrutinise requests for external placements and to justify these costs and to understand why the needs of the patient could not be met locally and also to look at step down options.

MS Teams pathway meeting on a laptop screen
As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the pathway meetings were held remotely by MS Teams. This has been a really beneficial approach as the Hywel Dda University Health Board region covers a very large geographical area. Virtual meetings have been a great way of bringing everyone together every 2 weeks without the need to travel.


After running this bi-monthly Low secure pathway meeting for 7 months, a SWOT analysis by members was completed highlighting the following challenges:

‘Meeting can sometimes focus too heavily on specific cases and the views of the ward. Difficult to challenge the views of the Consultant and open up discussion about alternative options to progress discharge earlier. We haven’t got the discussion about commissioned placements part quite right yet but hopefully next meeting will progress and include care co-ordinators’,

‘Need to ensure that the meeting has a supportive focus but does direct where needed. Need to maintain attendance and ensure it is prioritised’.

‘Some cases take a lot of time, there are times when this will be the case however the same conversations can be had at meetings after meeting. There isn’t a structured approach to discussing/recording referrals. This means we could be missing themes in the reason people are going to other hospitals. Also, a completed form could accompany the high cost request. HDUHB clients are not discussed in the same way external hospital clients are. There is no invite to anyone from therapies.’

‘On occasion not having the correct people at the meeting can slow down discussions on external placements. Slowing down the move- on if we have to wait for agreement when the meeting is only 2 weekly and lack of care co-ordinator involved as we can’t make move on plans without them.’

Next Steps

We had our first Secure and Independent hospital review meeting on 15th June which involved service managers and Care co-ordinators. We looked at the progress of clients in Secure and Independent hospitals and whether they could be stepped down to a less restrictive environment.

MS Teams meeting involving care co-ordinators
Image: A meeting involving care co-ordinators

Our Exemplar Experience

The Bevan Exemplar experience was really interesting and a fantastic resource with advice and extra sessions available. At times it was difficult to protect my time to attend these sessions but having the kudos of the Bevan Exemplar added value to the meetings and helped with its continual improvement.